Vocation and Christian Discipleship
Pope Benedict XVI has identified a ‘crisis of faith’ that has overtaken our society where it can no longer be taken for granted that Christian values, that were once handed down for centuries, will any longer continue to shape our future society. With this in mind it becomes imperative that from the ranks of the Church individuals will emerge that provide a living witness to the beauty and liberty of the Gospel. Despite a background of growing cynicism regarding the possibility of even living a virtuous life, young people in particular should listen to the voice of God in their own hearts which will reveal this ‘definite service’ that God has in mind for them. ‘Heart speaks unto Heart’ was the theme of the visit which had its origin in the motto taken by John Henry Newman, pointing to the quiet voice of God within. This calling or vocation is diverse as there are people, but the call is the same – to a life of discipleship which in itself is a discipline. For it is only by going beyond oneself in following the path of discipleship that we are taken out of ourselves, and it is precisely through being taken into service by something not made or thought out by ourselves that we find truth and freedom. In the final analysis the Christian life is not an idea but a way, “the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction,” the way of Jesus Christ.
From His speeches
“How much contemporary society needs this witness! How much we need, in the Church and in society, witnesses of the beauty of holiness, witnesses of the splendour of truth, witnesses of the joy and freedom born of a living relationship with Christ! One of the greatest challenges facing us today is how to speak convincingly of the wisdom and liberating power of God’s word to a world which all too often sees the Gospel as a constriction of human freedom, instead of the truth which liberates our minds and enlightens our efforts to live wisely and well, both as individuals and as members of society.” (Westminster Cathedral, Saturday, 18 September 2010 11:00 am)
“Here I wish to say a special word to the many young people present. Dear young friends: only Jesus knows what ‘definite service’ he has in mind for you. Be open to his voice resounding in the depths of your heart: even now his heart is speaking to your heart. Christ has need of families to remind the world of the dignity of human love and the beauty of family life. He needs men and women who devote their lives to the noble task of education, tending the young and forming them in the ways of the Gospel. He needs those who will consecrate their lives to the pursuit of perfect charity, following him in chastity, poverty and obedience, and serving him in the least of our brothers and sisters. He needs the powerful love of contemplative religious, who sustain the Church’s witness and activity through their constant prayer. And he needs priests, good and holy priests, men who are willing to lay down their lives for their sheep. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say “yes!” (The Holy Father’s Hyde Park Vigil Address 18/09/2010 8:30 pm)
“Newman, like the countless saints who preceded him along the path of Christian discipleship, taught that the ‘kindly light’ of faith leads us to realize the truth about ourselves, our dignity as God’s children, and the sublime destiny which awaits us in heaven. By letting the light of faith shine in our hearts, and by abiding in that light through our daily union with the Lord in prayer and participation in the life-giving sacraments of the Church, we ourselves become light to those around us; we exercise our ‘prophetic office’; often, without even knowing it, we draw people one step closer to the Lord and his truth.” (The Holy Father’s Hyde Park Vigil Address 18/09/2010 8:30 pm)
“And in discovering our true self we discover the particular vocation which God has given us for the building up of his church and the redemption of our world. Heart speaks unto heart. With these words from my heart, dear young friends, this is words from my heart. I assure you of my prayers for you.” (Pope Benedict’s Message to Young People Piazza, Westminster Cathedral, Saturday, 18 September 2010 12:20pm)
And From His other Writings….
To the Question how many ways are there to God? Pope Benedict XVI answered:-
“As many as there are people. For even within the same faith each man’s way is an entirely personal one. We have Christ’s word: I am the way. In that respect, there is ultimately one way, and everyone who is on the way to God is therefore in some sense also on the way of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that all ways are identical in terms of consciousness and will, but on the contrary, the one way is so big that it becomes a personal way for each man.” (Salt of The Earth. The Church at the End of the Millennium, P.32)
“Christian faith is not a system. It cannot be portrayed as a complete, finished intellectual construction. It is a path, and it is characteristic of a path that it only becomes recognizable if you enter on it and start following it. This is true in two senses: for any individual, Christianity only opens up in the experiment of going along with others; and as a whole it can only be grasped as a historical path.” (Truth and Tolerance. Christian Belief and World Religions, P.145)
“Today it is a matter of the greatest urgency to show a Christian model of life that offers a liveable alternative to the increasingly vacuous entertainments of leisure-time society, a society forced to make increasing recourse to drugs because it is sated on the usual shabby pleasures. Living on the great values of the Christian tradition is naturally much harder than a life rendered dull by the increasing costly habits of our time. The Christian model of life must be manifested as a life in all its fullness and freedom, a life that does not experience the bonds of love as dependence and limitation but rather as an opening to the greatness of life.” (Without Roots. The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam, P.125-126)
Questions for reflection, discussion and further study:
- ‘Heart speaks unto heart’ was the theme or motto of the Pope’s Visit to Scotland and the United Kingdom; to what does it refer?
- How can young people discover a vocation that awaits them and what vocation specifically does Christ require?
- Society needs afresh the witness to the beauty and the truth of the Christian faith. How difficult is it to follow the way of discipleship today and why is it described as a discipline?
 The Holy Father’s Hyde Park Vigil Address 18/09/2010 8:30 pm.
 Pope Benedict’s Address at Oscott College, Sunday, 19 September 2010 5:40pm.
 Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, “Heart speaks unto heart”, had himself adapted it from St Francis de Sales, “cor cordi loquitur.” First chapter of Book VI of St Francis’s Treatise on the Love of God, although it had an even early reference in the works of St Augustine “Lord, you have created us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Confessions of St Augustine, Book 1. Chap. 1.
 Pope Benedict’s Message to Young People Piazza, Westminster Cathedral, Saturday, 18 September 2010 12:20pm.
 Ratzinger, 2004, 100.
Benedict XVI, of the Supreme Pontiff (2005), Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, The Vatican, Rome, (1) P1.